Published on April 10, 2021
Could Personalized Vaccines Be Used to Treat Bladder Cancer?
New research from Mount Sinai Health System in New York shows promise for a new personalized vaccine for multiple cancer types, including bladder cancer. The research on the OpenVax pipeline was presented in the press program at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), being held virtually from April 10-15.
Harnessing the Immune System to Treat Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer occurs when cells in the bladder develop changes in their DNA, causing cells to grow and divide uncontrollably. It is often diagnosed early because, in many cases, it causes obvious symptoms such as blood in the urine and lower back pain. Now, with personalized medicine, there are ample opportunities to use a patient’s tumor and germline DNA (tissue from reproductive cells) and tumor components to develop new treatments, like a vaccine.
“Cancer vaccines, which typically combine tumor-specific targets that the immune system can learn to recognize and attack to prevent recurrence of cancer,” said study author Thomas Marron, MD, Ph.D., Assistant Director for Early Phase and Immunotherapy Trials at The Tisch Cancer Institute and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in an email announcing the findings.
“The vaccine also contains an adjuvant that primes the immune system to maximize the efficacy,” Dr. Marron added. An adjuvant is an ingredient used in some vaccines that helps create a stronger immune response in recipients of the vaccine.
About the OpenVax Pipeline Vaccine Study
Following standard cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or surgery, the participants received 10 doses of the personalized vaccine during a six-month time frame.
The main goal of this phase I trial was to determine safety. Researchers saw early potential benefits of the vaccine after one patient’s blood tests showed an immune response from the vaccine, and two other patients had a good response to immunotherapy afterward.
The research team followed up periodically and, after more than two years (880 days), four patients had no evidence of cancer. The patients who were able to participate in the trial had cancers that were likely to recur. The one side effect was a minor reaction at the injection site, which is not unusual for vaccines of all types.
Although this was a small and early phase I study of just 13 patients with various cancer types (10 with solid tumors), the results were promising.
The added benefit of this treatment is that Dr. Marron and his team were able to identify tumor-specific targets to help predict whether a patient’s immune system would recognize the vaccine’s intended targets.
“Our results demonstrate that the OpenVax pipeline is a viable approach to generate a safe, personalized cancer vaccine, which could potentially be used to treat a range of tumor types,” said Nina Bhardwaj, MD, Ph.D., of The Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai.
Going forward, Mount Sinai is launching five phase I trials testing OpenVax with other therapies in cancers including glioblastoma (a brain or spine cancer), bladder cancer, prostate cancer and myeloproliferative neoplasms.
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Patient Advocacy at AACR 2021
AACR is hosting a Scientist↔Survivor Program to provide cancer survivors, patient advocates and scientists an opportunity to share perspectives and discuss the latest findings in cancer research, regulatory science and health policy. Anna Barker, PhD, of the University of Southern California (USC) will lead the discussion.
There will be other events for patient advocates during AACR’s annual meeting, including the following:
- FDA Special Session for Patient Advocates
- Advocate Community Connections
- Virtual Advocacy Lounge
Some events require registration and there are discounts available. For more information, visit AACR Events for Patient Advocates.